The latest chapter in Alyson Hannigan’s career is a movie adaptation of a book that’s near and dear to her family.
The “How I Met Your Mother” actress’s two daughters, ages 8 and 11, were already fans of the “Flora & Ulysses” novel about a girl and her superpowered pet squirrel when Hannigan was asked to star in a new film based on the book.
“My kids are at an age where those kinds of things make me extra cool,” Hannigan said with a laugh. “So I got extra points. I kind of think they love me a little more right now.”
Hannigan plays Flora’s mother, Phyllis Buckman, in the “Flora & Ulysses” movie, which hit Disney+ on Friday.
The family film introduces Flora, played by Matilda Lawler, as an avid comic book reader whose life is flipped upside down when she meets Ulysses the squirrel, who obtains superpowers after being sucked up by a vacuum.
Hannigan’s character, meanwhile, is a romance novelist who’s struggling to find inspiration for her latest book amid a separation from her husband.
“She’s navigating this new sort of phase of her life where she and her husband have separated, but they still have a good relationship,” Hannigan said. “They’re trying to navigate the newness of the separation. ... She’s also very distracted by life’s problems, like the bills and ‘I need my career to take off,’ and everything’s kind of falling apart.
“She’s losing sight of how important the relationship with her daughter is, and then Ulysses comes in and saves the day, and helps everybody sort of reprioritize,” she said.
In the movie, the Buckman family must work together to help Ulysses when an animal control officer, played by “Community” star Danny Pudi, attempts to capture the remarkable rodent.
Hannigan, 46, was “beyond thrilled” that the movie’s script met her “high expectations,” which stemmed from how much her family loved the 2013 novel by Kate DiCamillo.
The actress, known for her role as Willow Rosenberg in the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” appreciates that every character is “flawed” and dealing with challenges in their lives, which makes the story relatable for viewers, and believes the underlying message of hope feels especially timely.
“When we got to see it, my kids loved it, and my husband and I kept looking at each other like, ‘It’s so good!’ But he also said this is the perfect film for families right now,” Hannigan said. “This is exactly what we need. Everybody needs this right now, and I totally agree, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was in the movie.”
Hannigan, who starred as Lily Aldrin on all nine seasons of “How I Met Your Mother” from 2005 to 2014, is a longtime animal enthusiast who loved squirrels before she joined the “Flora & Ulysses” cast.
The actress expects the movie will give viewers a newfound affection for the furry critters, too.
She said, “It just makes you believe that a squirrel can come in and change your world.”